Sunday, June 6, 2010

On the sunny side of life

Looking down the Arm

Saturday a paddle took time to organize. Stan had a work committment that made for a later start. Some couldn't wait and made their own plans. Stan and I drove to Sunnyside at the head of Bull Arm. It turned out to be a wise decision. Beautiful countryside, an eagle, a humpback whale and a couple of seals.

Its a bit of a drive from St. John's but after this, our first paddle here, I can testify its a drive well worth taking. Probably our only regret was not to have planned for an overnight camping trip on this day.

We put-in at 1:30 and wouldn't be back for 7 hours on an eventful day.

A typical Newfoundland scene

I don't think there's anything that says "outport Newfoundland" more than a house, wharf and stage and a boat or two moored off. This is on our way out of Sunnyside where the houses have been built more apart.

Lower Cambrian rocks

The geology is always of interest wherever you paddle in Newfoundland. Here on the east side of Bull Arm just after leaving Sunnyside the lower Cambrian red and pale green slates have been faulted as a block into the surrounding andesitic volcanic flows, breccias and tuffs of the Bull Arm formation. Man, I love this stuff ... can ya tell?

Always a crossing

Starting out on the east side of Bull Arm we had a 10 knot wind in our faces blowing straight into the Arm. Looking down the coastline, Stan thought the other side might be more interesting so we crossed. Events in about an hour would prove it was a fortuitous decision.

Bull Arm construction site

Here we are a Great Mosquito Cove where the Hibernia Oilfield Gravity Based Structure was constructed. The waters in the cove are very deep, 77 metres Stan reported. At one time, if I remember correctly, there were 5,000 people working at the height of construction. Things have slowed down while the Government looks to attract more work to this world class site.

A humpback whale

Paddling up the Arm towards the Shag Islands on the west side I was some distance ahead of Stan. A whistle blew; I stopped to see why. Stan didn't look in distress so I hailed him on the VHF. A whale he reported. I went back and he was beside himself with excitement. A whale had surfaced right next to his kayak, so close Stan could have reached out to touch it.

It didn't stop so we paddled on hoping to catch another glimpse. After a few minutes I stopped when I saw the white flashes of his flippers right under my boat. It came up a mere metre on my port side and our eyes met. Christ! I swallowed a lump in my throat.

For about 5 minutes the whale surfaced and swam around us as we sat captivated by the encounter. I'll post more pictures later.

Waiting for our friend to resurface

After our encounter with the whale we continued to paddle up the Arm. After a while we heard the whale feeding in the distance so we paddled into its vicinity and sat waiting to see if it would approach us again. It did briefly but its curiosity previously satisfied it didn't stick around. We respected its decision and, sadly, parted ways.

A Zen moment

After following the whale up the bay we we near Bull Island and the Duck Islands. The water was oily calm. There wasn't a sound. It was magical, a Zen moment.

Supper stop

It was getting towards evening and I was interested in taking care of my hunger. We found a spot on the Duck Islands that allowed us to get off the water. We scrambled up a bank where we could look back down the Arm and where we could sit in the sun that was slowly sinking into the hills beyond.

The waters around the Duck Islands were crystal clear. Looking down it was possible to see shoals drop off as underwater cliffs. All sorts of sea urchins, scallops and sea snails were clearly visible in water that looked to be 5 fathoms or more deep. An inviting place to dive if that's your bag.

Another enjoying the water of Bull Arm

We took our time paddling back to Sunnyside and spotted movement in the water. Going to look we realized it was a seal. We kept our distance, watched for a while until it carried on its way and we went ours uneventfully the rest of the way back to Sunnyside.

Caught in the setting sun

We made our way back into Sunnyside at 8:30 as the sun was sinking low in the sky. The clouds diffused the light but there was enough to light up the water and silhouette Stan. We got back the the put-in at 9:00, drove home in the dark arriving at just after 11:00.

Tracking our paddle on the map we paddled 30 kms "as the crow flies". Our meanderings during our encounter with the whale probably added 2 or 3 mks to the total. All I can say is "what a day". Thanks Stan.


  1. Another interesting read as usual. Thanks for sharing your experiences with those of us who cannot (yet) take part.


  2. Nice photos Tony. I'LL soon post mine.

    What a wicked day.


  3. Thanks Sis, its a magical world out there on the sea when the stars all align.

    Stan, I just saw your pictures. I take my hat off to you. I'm going to post the rest of my surface pictures of the whale in a day.

    Tony :-)

  4. Great pictures Tony. I really like the one titled 'A Zen Moment'. It looks so serene.